FRESNO, Calif. — Mary McDonough’s autobiography, “Lessons from the Mountain: What I Learned From Erin Walton,” offers an insider look at the popular TV series “The Waltons” (1971-81).
McDonough crafted the book to examine how she dealt with the pitfalls of being a child actor, the emotional stress of self-image doubts, health problems she believes resulted from leaking silicone breast implants and her fight with lupus.
“I turned 50 yesterday and thought about how the Walton family really informed who I was as a person,” McDonough says on her current book signing tour. “Our fans love the show so much, and we love sharing our memories so much, that I thought I would write all of those down in the book.
“But, the other thing is all of the different lessons that came out of growing up with two families. I felt like I was alone because I didn’t talk and tell people what I was feeling.”
McDonough was 10 when she was cast in “The Homecoming,” the TV movie that inspired the Emmy award-winning dramatic series. She went from being a normal kid to a TV star. Instead of the normal problems of youth, she dealt with image issues that came from growing up on TV. Feelings of being too fat caused her to deal with eating disorders.
Writing the book was easy because McDonough started writing a journal at an early age. What she wrote was hard.
“I am very passionate about all these lessons. Lifting from the journal was difficult because I was on such an emotional roller coaster. I was up, I was down,” she says.
Her love of “The Waltons” was played out against fights with depression, insomnia and experiments with drugs. In 1984, McDonough got silicone implants and started a decade of ill health. She was diagnosed with lupus 10 years later and she believes the leaking chemicals triggered the immune response.
She’s in remission now, but she still has health issues. Her work with the Lupus Foundation of America earned her the organization’s national award for outstanding service.
Along with her book tour and acting jobs on TV shows like “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” McDonough teaches acting, is a life coach and conducts workshops and seminars with women and young girls about body image.